If you're in a relationship, the decisions you and your partner make only impact your lives. When you add a child into the mix, however, the dynamic changes. Suddenly, you have this tiny human sponge who's soaking up everything you and your significant other do and say. The minute I realized my partner and I were responsible for shaping the way our son understands the world, I was immediately overwhelmed, to say the least. And I'm sure I'm not alone in that situation. That's why it's a good idea to be aware of the various marital habits that hurt your kid later in life, as upsetting as it may be.
As with most things in life, breaking a behavioral cycle is easier said than done. But simply acknowledging that you're engaging in potentially toxic patterns is a solid first step towards altering your routines. If you're worried that it might be difficult to break old habits, you're definitely not alone. Whether you're a parent-to-be, a new parent, or veteran parent, staying informed is one of the best ways to make sure you won't fall into any damaging ruts with these negative marital habits that can negatively affect your child later in life.
1. Not Prioritizing Your Partner
"The problem with the kids coming first is that your partner comes somewhere after that," clinical psychologist Dr. Paul DePompo tells Romper. "Putting your partner first ensures a stronger union and builds resilience in children." Otherwise, your child may grow up expecting to be treated like the world revolves around them.
2. Fighting In Any Form
"Children absorb all the verbal and non-verbal modes of communication," cognitive behavioral therapist and life coach Kristina Orlova says to Romper. So when you and your spouse are habitually bickering, it normalizes the act. "Fighting in front of children usually means children internalize that form of communication and will exhibit it themselves later in life," Orlova says. Of course disagreements will happen in any family, but it's how you handle the situation in front of little ones that matters.
3. Involving Your Child In Adult Matters
This one can be particularly difficult if your child's other parent is not your current partner. Clinical counselor Hillary L. McBride tells Romper that, "triangulation — talking to the kids about the marriage problems," is one marital habit that negatively affects children later in life. Involving children in your relationship quandaries is problematic. Instead, McBride suggests, "model, that if someone has a problem, go to the person they have a problem with, not someone else." Keeping boundaries allows your kids to be kids.
4. Not Owning Up To Your Mistakes
When you don't take personal responsibility in your marriage, it can have a detrimental influence on your child. "If you say or do something wrong, apologize," therapist Kimberly Hershenson tells Romper. "If your partner is upset with you, talk it out without getting defensive." These guidelines sound simple enough, but I'll openly admit that swallowing my pride isn't my strong suit. "By not showing your children accountability, you are modeling to them that you don't have to own up to your mistakes," Hershenson says. "Rather than focusing on who's right or wrong, try to create a healthy dialogue instead."
5. Making Material Amends
A bouquet of flowers may be a sweet gesture, but relying on purchases to fix problems isn't a healthy relationship routine. As Orlova tells Romper, "when [partners] over-compensate by getting a gift, it sends mixed messages." Presents aren't a substitute for verbally acknowledging any issues in your marriage. If you do get in the habit of letting your wallet do the talking, your child could grow up thinking that's the primary way to solve problems.
6. Putting Your Partner In A Box
Name-calling and inflammatory statements have far-reaching consequences in marriage. "Devaluing the other person and perpetuating gender-based norms are negative marital habits that have an impact on children's mental well-being later in life," McBride says. When you reduce your spouse to a stereotype — racial, sexual, or otherwise — your child may begin to mistreat people based on those types of categorizations.
7. Talking Down To Your Spouse
Even if you think you're doing it in jest, habitually teasing or shaming your significant other is toxic. DePompo says, "showing aggression, invalidation, or mocking your partner," as ways you could be undermining your marriage because, "these things only build contempt." Basically, the only person you should be treating like a child is your actual child.
8. Avoiding PDA
As it turns out, it's better to gross your kids out with a public display of affection (PDA) than to withhold it. But Hershenson says not having intimacy can negatively affect your child. "Whether it's a kiss hello or goodbye, snuggling on the couch, or holding hands, outwardly showing love to a partner helps children feel love, connection, and safety," Hershenson says.
9. Staying When You Should Go
"Self-destructive behaviors — drinking, yelling, violence in the home — can lead to internal stress as well as performance anxiety in children," Orlova says.
If you or your partner are perpetuating a cycle of abuse, there is always a way out. You can anonymously contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Similarly, you can find help through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) by calling their national hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).